Sandra Massey, Research Program Coordinator

Community-based research highlighting the multiple connections between Living Heritage and quality of life issues seeks to inform community planning and development. Understanding Living Heritage, our own and that of others, is essential to negotiating a shared future. Moreover, evidence-based and values-driven processes and information are the foundation to thinking globally and acting locally.

Governments, healthcare providers and care-givers agree; health and wellbeing is about more than just treating disease. The ‘Population Health’ approach to healthcare in Saskatchewan recognizes that many factors influence lifestyle and individual behaviour. Our values, beliefs and ways of life, in other words, our Living Heritage, shape both individual and collective life choices.

Governments, law enforcement agencies, human rights advocates, social workers and others who work with marginalized groups, know from first-hand experience that context matters. Social cohesion depends on reciprocity, the give and take that occurs when values and ways of living are negotiated within a community. An understanding of our own Living Heritage is where understanding the ‘other’ begins. Social cohesion depends on an active citizenry willing to negotiate a set of values, beliefs and ways of living that recognizes common ground and respects differences at the same time.

Governments, educators, students, business leaders and entrepreneurs understand the benefits of culturally appropriate learning environments and workplaces. Preparing youth for the workplace is a complex challenge inherently linked to human development. Confidence to contribute in a meaningful way comes from a strong sense of identity, belonging and place in addition to the development of specific skills and abilities and specific subject knowledge and understanding. There is a growing body of evidence that culturally appropriate learning environments provide the social context necessary for learning to actually occur. This extends to life-long learning experiences and success in the workplace as well. Businesses that value creative thinking and innovative solutions, value difference: of perspective, ideas, and options. Many employers and certainly front-line workers face day to day situations where an understanding of Living Heritage - of those they work with and those they hope to serve -enables them to do their job more effectively and efficiently.

Community-based research can inform such work. Also informing this work will be the first Canadian Index of Wellbeing - Saskatchewan Report which will show trends in Saskatchewan over a period of twenty years, 1994 - 2014, related to eight domains including: community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards and time use. When it comes to analysing these trends it will be important to augment the report with local data if and when available. Many agencies and organizations collect information related to their specific area of work and clientele which may be provided for a particular use when requested.

Moreover when it comes to understanding a particular group or segment of the community, it will be important to exercise caution. For example, some think the baby boom generation are quickly becoming a burden to the healthcare system however they also contribute to their communities in very positive ways, sharing their knowledge and experience with the younger population. Indigenous communities have in the past been described from a problematic point of view, however, it is far more effective to think about a community’s strengths and build on them. The general principle of “nothing about us, without us” must be applied here in order to inform public programs, services and policies at the community level. This will require extensive community engagement and building collaborative working partnerships; the foundation of community-based research.

One way to use the CIW Saskatchewan Report was identified by the Office of the Treaty Commission who may decide to plot their own data collection alongside the national and provincial numbers to understand the reality within Indigenous communities. This same approach could be used by other organizations and agencies to understand groups such as older adults and/or youth groups that want to initiate positive changes in their communities. Other organizations and agencies may have more recent data and they can use this report to demonstrate how the context has changed in Saskatchewan since 2014.

Heritage Saskatchewan hopes to use the report to track changes related to policy issues such as aging in place, building social cohesion and creating culturally appropriate learning environments and workplaces which align with the three streams of quality of life identified earlier. Some preliminary work around linking indicators to these policy issues has already been done however further research is required to augment national indicators in order to understand the provincial context in greater depth. This can also be done at the local level. The process of community-based research can facilitate a learning process within communities whatever their geographical location or size that in turn will lead to a better understanding of Living Heritage within the community and ensure policy-makers and decision-makers reflect the values and respond to the needs of the community.

Ongoing research sponsored by UNESCO and other agencies demonstrates that understanding Living Heritage is essential to addressing global issues at the local/community level. The CIW Saskatchewan Report seeks to inform conversations about the defining issues of our time by provoking an ongoing conversation about the things that really matter to people. The importance of research and evidence in this context cannot be overstated. To make informed decisions for ourselves and others, we must nurture a better understanding of Living Heritage. This requires multiple partnerships with many stakeholders, including Universities committed to community-based research that is intergenerational, cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary; studies that take a holistic approach to addressing social issues / global issues at the local / community level. Heritage Saskatchewan knows there is strength in numbers and shared experience. We also recognize the power of story; that narrative we tell ourselves and others about who we are and the future we want. Together they make a strong case for nurturing a greater understanding of Living Heritage. As the African proverb tells us: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.